Merry Christmas, 2011
To celebrate Christmas, I am sharing my Christmas Day columns, a tradition that started in 1996. Here is the 2011 version:
A Christmas story, 1999: Phyllis and her son had a tradition. They would color together. Color in a coloring book, date the page and keep it.
Starting when her boy was small and continuing when he grew to over 6-feet tall.
On this Christmas, her son was home from college, and they laid on Phyllis’ bed and colored a page. A picture of two little kids, sitting beside a Christmas tree, opening presents. Like always, they colored and dated and kept the page.
The next Christmas, Phyllis’ son didn’t make it home. She had a daughter in Texas and only enough money to bring home one of her kids. Her son urged Phyllis to fly his sister home to Michigan.
Phyllis’ son never made it home at all. About a month after Christmas, her son was dead in a plane crash. Phyllis’ prize possession remains that colored page of the kids by the Christmas tree. It reminds her of the bond she had with her son, Daniel Lawson.
A Christmas story, 2004: He had been visiting sick kids his whole adult life. Adults, including friends, even those on death’s door, wouldn’t get a hospital visit. But kids were different. Kids touched his heart.
He had hip surgery at Stanford Hospital in ’04, appreciated his care and decided to make an annual Christmas visit to Stanford’s children hospital.
He shows up with balls to sign, but not already signed, so that the kids know the autograph is legit.
He sees the kids with cancer, or awaiting organ transplants. Sits in the tiny chairs in the play rooms, or talks to them in their beds.
He’s still a curmudgeon. A mother asked for an autograph once, and he snapped, “Who are you? This is for the kids.” When told it was for her son, he signed.
The dean of Stanford’s med school figures our man is more comfortable around kids because he sees what they can’t do but he could: use his body to overcome adversity.
So every Christmas he’s back at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, walking slowly, with a hearing aid and eyeglasses and a gut, now in his 80s, but if you look close, you can make out the familiar face of Willie Mays.
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